Survey Shows High Satisfaction with 511 Service


OAKLAND, Calif., July 27, 2004 . . . The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) today expanded its popular 511 Driving Times service to include on-demand, point-to-point travel times for five more key freeway corridors: U.S. 101 between the Golden Gate Bridge toll plaza and Bicentennial Way in Santa Rosa (including the Golden Gate Bridge), Interstate 580 between Albany and San Rafael (including the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, Interstate 280 between the San Francisco terminus and John Daly Boulevard in Daly City, U.S. 101 between Interstate 80 in San Francisco and Belmont, State Route 92 between Interstate 880 in Hayward and U.S. 101 in San Mateo (including the San Mateo Bridge).

The expanded 511 Driving TimesSM coverage available free of charge on the phone at 511 or on the Web at is expected to bolster travelers already-high satisfaction with the Bay Areas 511 service. A recent survey of callers shows that overall satisfaction with the 511 system rose to 92 percent from 90 percent in 2003. Of the 1,001 callers questioned in this years survey, 99 percent declared themselves likely (and 93 percent very likely) to call 511 again. Among the features most frequently hailed by callers are the usefulness of the available data, and the systems overall ease of use.

Tapping data from FasTrakTM toll transponders and constantly-updated information from Caltrans, the 511 Driving TimesSM feature tells motorists the current travel time between cities or major landmarks in the Bay Area, and if there are any incidents on the route. 511 Driving TimesSM quickly has become one of the most popular features on the 511 Traffic Web page.

One North Bay company uses the 511 Traffic page to route more than 60 heavy-haul trucks away from traffic areas and to better estimate delivery times for its customers. The system works well and is easy to use, says a company executive. We have a GPS tracking system in our trucks, but weve found the 511 Traffic site to be more useful. So we moved the 511 Traffic map to the big screen monitor and our GPS system to the small auxiliary monitor.

Expansion of the 511 Driving TimesSM coverage area brings to eight the number of freeway corridors and five the number of toll bridges on which current driving times are now available. The cutting-edge system debuted in March 2004 with real-time information for the entire Interstate 80 corridor from San Francisco to Highway 12 east near Suisun City (including the Bay Bridge and Carquinez Bridge), Interstate 880 from the MacArthur Maze to Fremont, and Interstate 680 from Highway 4 in Pacheco to Interstate 580 in Dublin/Pleasanton. Over the next year, this first-of-its-kind service will be expanded regionwide and will be available for all major Bay Area highways and bridges.

511 Driving TimesSM
To access the 511 Driving TimesSM service on the Web, simply go to, click on the 511 Driving TimesSM button, and then use the interactive freeway map to identify starting and ending points along the available routes. The system will report the current driving time, as well as any traffic incidents along the route. On the phone, callers using 511s state-of-the-art voice system need only ask for Driving Times at the Main Menu and then say their starting and destination points. 511 automatically provides the estimated driving time and incidents along that route.

To identify origin and destination points, callers can say the name of cities, such as Foster City or Santa Rosa; landmarks, such as SBC Park, Childrens Hospital or Marin Civic Center; or bridges such as Bay Bridge or Richmond Bridge For larger cities, the automated operator will prompt callers to refine their starting and ending points, if they wish. These points include exits and highway junctions. Callers can always ask for help to get a list of options. 511 will then provide the current driving time between these points.

Once drivers are informed of the current travel time, 511 Driving TimesSM also will tell them about any current incidents along their route, based on real-time data collected by the California Highway Patrol.

Traffic congestion is frustrating, remarked MTC Chair and Marin County Supervisor Steve Kinsey. Especially if you dont know how long youll be stuck in traffic. Now, if I want to know how long its going to take to get to a meeting in Santa Rosa or an event in San Francisco, or when Im going to get home, I can just call 511 anytime, day or night. Its easy, and its free.

Advanced Software Makes Breakthrough Possible
The 511 Driving TimesSM service is made possible by a new version of the software that updates 511 traffic reports. In addition to point-to-point driving times, the 511 phone service offers a whole range of enhanced traffic features, including an option that allows them to be transferred to the FasTrakTM customer service center. The system also features a faster voice response system; more flexible menu navigation that allows callers to request conditions on various freeways without having to go back to the traffic conditions menu; more detail about incident locations, including the city in which the incident is located; and more specifics about traffic slowdowns complete with actual traffic speeds triggered when the average speed falls below 40 miles per hour. This is cutting-edge technology, says Kinsey. All the options available on the phone are available on the Web, too.

511 is the Bay Areas one-stop resource for free traffic, transit, ridesharing and bicycling information. Much like 411 or 911, the 511 phone service is an easy-to-remember, three-digit number. Callers can use the service to get the most current reports on road conditions and traffic incidents, as well as fare and schedule information from over 40 public transportation providers and 20 paratransit operators, plus information about carpooling, vanpooling and bicycling.

In addition to the online 511 Driving TimesSM feature, the 511 Web site at features online FasTrakTM applications, MTCs popular TakeTransitSM Trip Planner, an online ridematching tool for carpoolers, and links to other resources including an interactive traffic map showing traffic congestion, accidents and highway construction events.

Part of a national rollout of 511 service, the Bay Areas 511 phone and Web system was launched in December 2002 through a partnership between MTC, Caltrans, CHP, and dozens of transit operators. The Bay Area is the largest metropolitan area in the country to activate a 511 system. The service currently receives about 60,000 calls per week, and was recognized earlier this year by the Intelligent Transportation Society of America as the Best New Product, Service or Application for 2003. The Bay Areas 511 system also received a 2003 California Department of Transportation Award for transportation management, the 2003 Innovation Award from the American Public Transportation Association, and the Best Public Innovation and Best Partnership Awards from the California Alliance for Advanced Transportation Systems.

MTC is the transportation planning, financing and coordinating agency for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area.